Monthly Archives: December 2013

Chocolate toxicity–how much is dangerous?




With all the yummy chocolate goodies being brought in for Christmas cheer, it is easy for US to overdose, but what about when your dog decides those Hershey’s kisses are too much to pass up?  Dark chocolate truffles–oh my!  It is well-known that chocolate is bad for your pets (and, unlike raisins and grapes, ALL dogs can be affected by chocolate).

Theobromine is the compound in chocolate that causes problems.  The amount of theobromine in chocolate is directly related to the amount of chocolate liquor (from Wikipedia: Chocolate liquor is produced from cocoa beans that have been fermented, dried, roasted, and separated from their skins. The beans are ground into cocoa mass (cocoa paste). The mass is melted to become the liquor, and the liquor is cooled and molded into blocks known as unsweetened baking chocolate (bitter chocolate).)

Cats and dogs are 5 times more sensitive to the effects of theobrominethan humans, so a piece of dark chocolate is no big deal for us, but can be a huge deal to a small dog or cat!

The clinical signs of theobromine intoxication include vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, tremors, seizures, a racing heart leading to arrhythmia, and possibly death.

Theobromine is found in anything containing chocolate, but the less sweetened chocolates have the most.  Toxic doses of theobromine are 9 mg per pound of dog for mild signs, up to 18 mg per pound of dog for severe signs. Milk chocolate contains 44 mg / ounce of theobromine while semisweet chocolate contains 150 mg per ounce, and baking chocolate contains 390 mg per ounce.

How does that translate into what your dog ate?

9 Hershey’s milk chocolate kisses1 Hershey’s milk chocolate candy bar = 2 Godiva milk chocolate truffles = 1.5 oz of milk chocolate.  This will cause SEVERE clinical signs in dogs 10 pounds or less, but isn’t a big deal in heavier dogs.   If your 50 pound dog eats half a bag of Kisses, he will likely end up with vomiting and diarrhea.

1 Hershey’s Special Dark candy bar (which is 45% cacoa) = 1.5 oz.  Will cause vomiting and diarrhea in dogs under 40 pounds.

1 cup Nestle semisweet chocolate chips = 6 oz.  This will cause SEVERE clinical signs in a dog 75 pounds or less, vomiting and diarrhea in dogs over 75 pounds.

4 Ghiradelli 60% Cacao squares = 1.5 oz.  This will cause SEVERE clinical signs in dogs less than 25 pounds, vomiting and diarrhea in dogs under 50 pounds.

1/2 cup baking chocolate (unsweetened) = 2.3 oz.  This will cause SEVERE clinical signs in a dog 75 pounds or less, vomiting and diarrhea in dogs over 75 pounds.

Vomiting can be induced in dogs with 3% hydrogen peroxide.  For a dog 15 pounds and under, give 2 teaspoons of 3% hydrogen peroxide, then wait 15-20 min for your dog to vomit.  If no vomiting has occurred, give another 1 teaspoon.  For dogs 15-30 pounds, give 1 tablespoon 3% hydrogen peroxide.  Can give another 1/2 – 1Tablespoon if no vomiting has occurred in 15 min.  For dogs over 30 pounds, start with 1-2 Tablespoons.  Do not give more than 3 Tablespoons total.

Hydrogen peroxide is NOT recommended to induce vomiting in cats, as it can cause a severe gastritis.  If your cat has eaten something it shouldn’t, please contact your vet or local emergency vet.



Grape/raisin toxicity in dogs

Everyone  knows that chocolate is bad for your pets.  But many people aren’t aware that grapes and raisins can cause major problems for dogs (and maybe cats).  Really, it is a fruit.  How bad can it be?

Eating grapes and/or raisins has been shown to cause acute (sudden) kidney failure in dogs (and some cats).  No one knows why this happens, but fungal, pesticide, and heavy-metal causes have pretty much been eliminated. Recent unpublished data indicates that the toxic component is water-soluble, and within the flesh of the grape/raisin, not the seed.   So grapeseed extract may be safe to use.  It isn’t known if pasteurization makes the compound non-toxic, so it isn’t recommended to give your dog grape juice.

Unlike chocolate, which affects all dogs depending on the amount eaten, not all dogs have problems eating grapes.  But since we don’t know which dogs are susceptible,  it makes the most sense to not feed your dog grapes or raisins at all.  Amounts that have caused clinical signs have varied from 0.18 to 0.5 oz/lb in one study.   For perspective, an ounce of grapes can be about 10 small grapes or 3 large grapes!

The lowest recorded amount that caused acute kidney failure was 0.32 oz/lb for grapes and 0.05 oz/lb for raisins.  For a 25 pound dog, that is about 8 ounces of grapes or a little over 1 ounce of raisins.

After eating the grapes/raisins, a dog may show clinical signs several hours later.  Vomiting and lethargy are generally seen first, then the signs of kidney failure–increased drinking, increased (or absent) urination, inappetance, and diarrhea are seen within 24 hours.  Partially digested grapes and raisins might be seen in the vomit, fecal material, or both. There have been cases of gastrointestinal signs continuing for several weeks post ingestion.

If your dog ate a bunch of grapes or raisins, getting him to vomit soon after is the best idea.  Your veterinarian can guide you in the best way to do this.  If that isn’t effective or if your dog ate the grapes/raisins several hours before you noticed,  then a visit to the vet would be worthwhile.  Your vet will likely do blood testing and check a urine specific gravity (concentration of the urine) to see if the kidneys are working normally.  Early and aggressive fluid treatment may be needed, as the prognosis is guarded once renal failure develops.

The best treats for dogs?  Vegetables (except for onions and garlic)!

Allison’s December newsletter

These Dangerous Holidays

  No matter how much we love and adore them, nobody wants to spend time worrying about the health of their pets at this time of the year.  There are decorations to put up, gifts to buy, cookies to bake, and a million other things going on that take our attention away from our pets.  The truth is, the parasites that prey on our furry friends (ticks, mosquitoes, fleas) are dead (we hope), most of us don’t have to think about heartworm testing and prevention yet (though we are still giving our Heartgard every month, right??), and our money and attention is understandably all tied up elsewhere around the holidays.  Preventing possible emergencies and illnesses is a huge part of our goal here at Four Lakes, so please take just one quick second to check this list of holiday hazards for pets during this month:

Food hazards:

Please do not hesitate to call us at: 608-819-6750

or the ASPCA’s Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435

or the Pet Poison Helpline at: 800-213-6680

if you are concerned about something your pet has eaten.

Onions & garlic can damage red blood cells and cause life-threatening anemia.

Xylitol, an artificial sweetener found in sugar-free gum and candy, causes a very fast, very dangerous drop in blood sugar and can be fatal.Orbit

Chocolate contains a stimulant called methylxanthine, which can poison dogs- the higher the amount of actual cocoa (darker chocolate has more), the worse is it.

Yeast dough expands in the warm, moist stomach and cause a blockage that could require surgical removal.

Grapes & raisins can cause kidney failure.

Animal bones, especially chicken and turkey, can block the esophagus or break into shards that can perforate the stomach or intestines, requiring surgical repair.TurkeyWishbone

Animal fat can cause very serious illnesses in pets- remember how small their bodies are compared to our own- a little bit of fat goes a long way toward upsetting the balance of their systems.

Macadamia nuts can cause muscle tremors, weakness and vomiting.

Human medications can cause a variety of mild to severe reactions in pets, depending on the dosage and the amount they ingest- NEVER give your pet any human medication without checking with your veterinarian first.Adderall ambien-generic


Household Hazards:

Decorations & wrappingsRibbon seem very appealing to particularly cats and young puppies and kittens- the ornaments look like shiny balls to play with, tinsel is sparkly and moves tantalizingly in the slightest breeze, and wrapping paper and ribbons are lightweight and fun to bat around.  All of these items are potentially hazardous to your pets- often ornaments are very fragile and could break in their mouths, causing cuts and possibly damaging teeth; ingestion of tinsel, wrapping paper or ribbon could cause particularly serious intestinal blockages requiring surgical intervention.

Plants such as holly & mistletoe can cause stomach upset (vomiting and diarrhea) and lilies can cause kidney failure in cats!MistletoeHolly

Candles are so pretty to have around this time of year, but one errant swish of the dog’s tail or a misstep by the cat, and you’ll have a holiday disaster on your hands- keep the candles up high where they can’t reach!

Rock salt and other man-made products that help clear our walkways of snow and ice can be toxic to our pets.  Pieces can stick to your dog’s paws when out for a walk and when you get inside, he licks and licks at them to remove the tiny pieces, ingesting whatever material you use. Play it safe and use pet-safe de-icing products.

Antifreeze has a dangerously sweet smell and taste to dogs- keep it out of their reach to avoid toxicity!

As much as we love your animals and would love to see you around the holidays, we would hate for it to be due to an injury or toxicity in your beloved pet.  Stop in for fun stuff instead- a homemade, hand-decorated dog treat, a plush squeaky toy or a couple of fuzzy mice for the kitty!



We wish you the happiest of holidays and hope that they are safe and fun for your whole family!

Parasite prevalence in Dane County, Wisconsin

I just finished writing an article about intestinal worms for the January issue of Nature’s Pathway.  Found interesting statistics about the prevalence of these parasites in Dane County.

Ascarid_5Did you know that roundworms are the most commonly seen intestinal worms in dogs and cats?  In Dane county, 1 out of every 44 dogs tested (or 2.25% of dogs) is positive for roundworms.  Cats have a higher prevalence–1 out of 19 cats (5.36%) are positive.  This percentage has been increasing over the past 3 years.

HooksHookworms aren’t quite as common.  For dogs, 1.59% test positive and 1.35% of cats test positive.  Remember that these are based on the number of pets actually tested–it doesn’t account for all those dogs and cats whose owners don’t bring in a stool sample.

whipworm-adultsWhipworms only infect dogs.  Only 0.78% of dogs tested were positive.  But whipworm eggs are intermittently shed in small numbers and can be very difficult to find, so the % could be a bit higher.

Roundworms and hookworms are zoonotic parasites–they can infect humans.  Children are at particular risk of roundworm infection, called “larval migrans.”  The worm doesn’t develop in the intestines, but the larvae migrate around the body, causing damage in whatever tissue they pass through.  Whipworms also don’t infect the intestines in humans.  The eggs can “hatch” in moist, warm soil and the larvae can penetrate through the skin, causing intense itching.  This is seen in dogs, too.

Because intestinal worm eggs are spread through infected rodents, birds, earthworms, and cockroaches, even inside-only cats can become infected.  Yearly testing and/or regular deworming (such as with heartworm preventative) is very important for maintaining the health of your pet.

For more interesting facts, pictures, videos, and trivia, visit: